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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 10:14 GMT
Drugs bust 'a sledgehammer blow'
HMS Cumberland and the drug-laden speedboat
HMS Cumberland intercepted the speedboat in international waters
A massive cocaine seizure by the Royal Navy off the Nicaraguan coast has dealt a "sledgehammer blow" to traffickers, the defence secretary said.

HMS Cumberland seized two tonnes of cocaine worth 200m after intercepting a speedboat during a routine patrol.

Snipers on board a Lynx helicopter fired shots at the engine, ending the speedboat crew's attempt to escape.

Defence Secretary John Reid described it as a "great success for the Royal Navy". Four arrests were made.

"Drugs are a scourge of civilised society, crippling the lives of millions around the world," he said.

"Taking the fight to those who defy the international community is as vital now as it has ever been.

"For that reason, I pay tribute to the crew of HMS Cumberland, whose professionalism and commitment to the task has dealt a sledgehammer blow to the drug traffickers."

The Royal Navy crew worked closely with the Lynx helicopter, from Cumberland's support vessel, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Wave Knight, and the US coast guard to seize the drugs.

After the snipers fired bullets, a team from Devonport-based Cumberland boarded the speedboat and arrested the crew, who offered little resistance.

Minimal force

Captain Simon Ancona, HMS Cumberland's commanding officer, said: "This operation has stopped Class A drugs reaching the streets and harming our communities.

"The ship's prompt reactions allowed the appropriate and lawful action to take place with the minimal use of force."

He added that the success sent "a strong message" that governments, agencies and armed forces worldwide would work together to stop drug trafficking.

The speedboat crew surrender to the Royal Navy
The speedboat crew tried to escape but snipers shot their engine

Capt Ancona told the BBC the cocaine had been found in "about 90 mail-sack sized" bags.

He believes similar drug raids were "inevitable".

"The trouble with the drug trade, especially from South America, is there's no lack of the raw material nor is there a lack of a market, all one can really do is effect the tube in between."

HMS Cumberland begun a four-month deployment in the Caribbean in August.

The warship will also provide disaster relief and is helping monitor the progress of Hurricane Beta.

In 2003, Cumberland and Wave Knight seized 3.6 tonnes of cocaine during an anti-drugs operation in the mid-Atlantic.


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SEE ALSO:
Drug seizure 'great success'
09 May 03 |  Europe


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